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As a job seeker, it can be hard to see danger signs when you’re interviewing. When you really want a job, it’s all too easy to ignore signals that a company might turn into the workplace of your nightmares. But if you don’t want to end up in a job that regularly leaves you in tears, it’s important to pay attention to red flags.
Here are 4 danger signs to watch out for when you’re applying for a job:
1. Flakiness. The job description seems to be a work in progress that keeps changing. You’re told that you’ll be reporting to finance and later it changes to operations. They say they’ll get back to you within 48 hours and you hear nothing. You arrive for your interview with Bob and learn that you’ll be meeting with Jane instead. Guess what it’s going to be like to work there?
Of course, there can be legitimate reasons for any of the above. But an organized company will realize that these things can look flaky and will acknowledge it and explain what’s going on. It’s an absence of any awareness or concern about how this may be coming across that should alarm you, because it indicates it’s not anything out of the ordinary for this company.
2. Taking a long time to get back to you. This is common, but it’s still worth looking at. You want to work somewhere that can move quickly and make decisions and respects people enough not to let them languish. Companies are sending you a powerful message about their culture when they’re responsive or at least let you know what their timeline is—and they send an equally powerful message when they don’t.
3. Not updating you when a timeline changes. Every job seeker knows how agonizing it is to be expecting to hear back by a certain date, only to have that date come and go with no word. You want to work in a culture where people do what they say they’re going to do, or update you accordingly. This is about simple respect, and once you’re working there, it will also be about your ability to get things done.
4. High turnover in the position or department. High turnover means one of two things: a willingness to replace poor performers (good) or lots of people running away from a disaster (bad). Your job is to find out which one it is. For instance, ask, “It sounds like you’ve had some turnover recently. What’s been behind that?” It’s unlikely that anyone will come out and say, “The boss is a nightmare to work for,” but you should be able to get some sense of what’s going on from the type of answer you get.
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